EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings have a long way to go, but they're off to a strong start.
Minnesota defeated Chicago 29-22 Sunday, improving the team to 4-1 on the season and – perhaps most importantly – 3-0 in division games.
With the Lions being blanked by the Patriots 29-0 and the Packers blowing a lead against the Giants, the Vikings stand alone at first place in the division.
Minnesota is second overall in the NFC behind the undefeated Eagles, who in Week 2 served the Vikings their only defeat. Dallas and the New York Giants also have 4-1 records in the NFC. Buffalo has the same record in the AFC, and Kansas City has an opportunity to match that while wrapping Week 5 on Monday Night Football.
"It feels amazing, but we've still gotta take it one week at a time and continue to do what we're doing," Vikings defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson said.
Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said he can't put too much stock into the team's current record because there's so much work left to be done.
"I just think it just means that we're 4-1 after five games. We've learned a lot about our team through five games, but I think what we've learned should really help us do two things, in my mind: have confidence moving forward that we can win football games that are hard-fought and competitive in this league, but ultimately that we can still continue to chase consistency across the board, playing our philosophical way that we think we can win a lot of football games with," O'Connell said following Sunday's game. "I can obviously do better for our team, making sure that I can help with some of those lulls throughout the game, but inevitably they are going to happen in this league. That's part of NFL football, and we'll continue to chase that and push our players.
"But the best part about it is they're the ones talking about it, not so much us (coaches) needing to be banging them over the heads with it," O'Connell added. "They are telling me, our leadership is telling me, what we're striving for, so I feel good about it. At some point, it's out there for us."
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks acknowledged the team needs to improve at maintaining leads to avoid pulling out wins in the final minutes – or seconds – every week.
View the Vikings in "Big Head Mode" following the comeback win over the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium on Oct. 9.
But let's also give credit where credit is due.
"We have very high standards for ourselves, so we're obviously critical, and we want to get better, we want to do things right," Kendricks said. "But looking back at it, you know, we're 4-1 in the NFL. That's an incredible feat.
"We can't hang our hats on that. We have to come back to work every day and learn from our mistakes, watch film … but we're in a good spot," Kendricks continued. "So our confidence is high. Everybody's calm on the sideline; everyone wants to get the job done; everybody knows what they've gotta do. It's a matter of going and just really executing it fully, every down, and we'll put [opponents] away earlier."
O'Connell spoke to media members again Monday afternoon (via videoconference) and noted that while it's much too early to rest on one's laurels, it's "always easier to build off of victories."
After all, football can be a sport of momentum.
"We've made it hard on ourselves at times because of some of the inconsistency that showed up maybe in the second or third quarters of games," O'Connell said, "but without any flinch in our group to go win the game when we need to. I think that's a big thing."
Some of Minnesota's wins may not have been pretty, but a notch in the "win" column looks a whole lot nicer than the alternative.
"It's where we want to be," safety Harrison Smith said. "If you can learn while you're winning, it's pretty awesome. It doesn't happen all the time. I think that shows you how good we can be, and we're just scratching the surface."
The Vikings are looking ahead to this week's game at Miami before enjoying the Week 7 bye, which will allow them a chance to recharge while – hopefully – being at 5-1.
It won't be easy, but this team is up to the challenge.
"As the season continues to go on, stakes are gonna get higher," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "When we continue to win, the target on our back's gonna get bigger. The job's not done."